Clusters of coral agave blossoms in Huerto del Cura (botanical garden) in Elche, Spain, Valencia region.
Metal sculptures and complementary green hedge in Huerto del Cura (botanical garden) in Elche, Spain, Valencia region.
Colorful foliage of cannas, green elephant ears, and castor beans edge an exhibit at the Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, New Jersey.
Palms and lavender in Santa Barbara castle courtyard at Alicante, Spain, on the Mediterranean.
Life-changing moments can come in surprising packages. High school teacher Marvin Burrus stood short, lean, and bony in 1969. Wire-rimmed glasses framed his thoughtful eyes. Looking out our kitchen window on most summer days, I'd watch him push an oversized, high-wheel garden plow up and down, up and down impeccably straight, weedless rows of corn, beans, tomatoes, and cabbages. He looked comical as his overly large, wide-brimmed, fringed straw hat bounced with his steady stride.
Though I was a confirmed bookworm who scoffed at dirt under the fingernails, Mr. Burrus saw a budding gardener. He offered me a small piece of his huge garden -- conveniently adjacent to our driveway in East Stroudsburg, PA. This gift of soil and microbes transformed my life. Soon I was reading Organic Gardening magazine and digging compost trenches (at night so my parents wouldn't fuss) for kitchen waste between rows of tomatoes a la Ruth Stout. By year three, the veggie bounty was astonishing and the soil exquisitely rich and crumbly.
For me, love of gardening has become a vital thread -- sometimes overtly passionate, often subtly steadfast -- always connecting one day, one year, one life chapter to the next.
Some 35 years and several career changes later, I'm still in the garden. Make that many people's ornamental perennial and shrub gardens -- as owner of the organically oriented In The Garden Design, Care, & Workshops in southeastern Pennsylvania. Botany, design, and plant identification classes at Temple University's Department of Landscape Architecture and Horticulture and in Longwood Gardens' Continuing Education program grounded and continue to bring understanding, art, and science to this highly intuitive process of gardening.
Who'd have thought that writing lesson plans for a bachelor's degree in education would come in handy for environmentally based gardening programs? Brainstorming, focusing, and organizing are, thankfully, transferable skills. For about six years, I've enjoyed teaching adult and young gardeners for the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, the Morris Arboretum of the University of Pennsylvania, the Main Line School Night in the Philadelphia suburbs, and other venues.
Say a gardening couple has differing ideas about transforming their backyard. She wants year-round showy flowers, and he wants native plants for a bird habitat. I slip into the role of mediator/creative thinker, thanks to a Masters of Education in counseling. With a bit of listening, luck, and time, everyone's happy by garden completion and payday.
And the writing? That began with winning $20 in eighth grade for a fire prevention essay. Since then, it's been on-the-job training -- former newspaper reporter, now a free-lance writer, medical editor, and, best of all, GARDEN WRITER! On the "To Do" list: combining garden writing with photography and travel writing.
With this new opportunity as mid-Atlantic editor for the National Gardening Association, I look forward to learning evermore about horticulture and sharing all sorts of tidbits with folks fascinated with the world of plants.